Colorado Mountain College receives $118k from state for scholarships | SummitDaily.com

Colorado Mountain College receives $118k from state for scholarships

Just a few years back, only about 35 percent of jobs in Colorado required a college degree, but the state's Commission on Higher Education estimates that figure will more than double by 2020.

To meet those rapidly approaching demands, officials have set their sights on finding ways to help the next generation of the state's workforce meet their education goals en route to better paid careers. In 2014, Colorado's General Assembly established the Colorado Opportunity Scholarship Initiative, or COSI, and, since then, the Department of Higher Education has been passing out portions of a $35-million pot to support resident students statewide.

Lt. Gov. Donna Lynne, who is also the state's director of higher education, was on hand Thursday afternoon at Colorado Mountain College's Breckenridge campus to hand over a $118,000 check to the mountain school network. And because the COSI approach works to locate matching funds, the reach of those dollars is doubled through third-party donations to support the Western Slope community college system. In turn, CMC is now $236,000 richer.

"All of us recognize when communities come together, you tend to have more success," Lynne said during the presentation. "Challenging communities, whether it was government or private foundations to support the program, was really an important ingredient."

The grant is the second of its kind for the 11-campus, seven-county CMC network. After the Colorado Legislature created the postsecondary reserve, it selected CMC to receive $400,000 toward its Mountain Futures Fund. By the next year, the President's Scholarship was fashioned to provide $1,000 to every graduating high school senior throughout the college's service area. That moves annual in-district tuition for the region's students to less than $1,000 for a full academic year.

Summit High School graduate Baylie Lawson was one of the first recipients of the award, and it's meant a world of difference for her as she completes coursework at the Breckenridge campus toward becoming a trauma nurse. Since graduating in 2015, she's been able to avoid taking out any school loans in eventually transferring and finishing her nursing requirements most likely at Adams State University in Alamosa.

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"I never thought I'd come to CMC, but I'm really glad now that I have," said Lawson while being honored at Thursday's event. "I've been here a year and a half and I haven't had to pay for a single class. I have zero debt so far, so I can start in (upon transferring) and just start all over."

She also noted her appreciation for CMC's small-school environment where she got to know many of her professors personally. Plus, the ability to stay local provided the opportunity to live at home while also continuing to work.

"I think a lot of you know giving money is a good thing," added Lynne, "but giving support to students also really helps them succeed. This COSI program is one way to help do that to provide the financial support, to give money to students who really will need it, and who will also likely stay in our communities and continue to work and support us."

CMC has raised nearly $1 million in the past two years for its Mountain Futures Fund by grouping grants from any number of sources, from these types of state and national grants, to private and community organizations and local school districts. Carrie Besnette Hauser, president and CEO of the CMC system, told those assembled Thursday these funds are creating opportunities for students who once did not know if it was possible to attend college. It's also helping to prepare them for the not-so-distant future when on the job market a degree will be the rule rather than the exception.

"All of my focus has really been on how do we level the playing field for all students," said Hauser. "The college is the common presence in all these communities, so we are uniquely positioned. We have in my view a real responsibility to partner and to think about how we do some of things that we want to do in the mountain communities collectively."